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Marvel Goes Macabre With Werewolf By Night

Werewolf By Night is the first-ever Marvel Studios Special Presentation, thus distinguishing it from all the other ‘normal’ series set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) that have been released since 2021’s WandaVision. It’s essentially a one-shot or short film. I previously mentioned that Moon Knight was the riskiest and most unique MCU content on Disney+ to date, but now Werewolf By Night is more deserving of that title.

Fright Night

Harriet Sansom Harris as Verussa in Marvel Studios’ WEREWOLF BY NIGHT, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

Werewolf By Night is basically Marvel’s take on the horror pop culture or mythical icon that is the werewolf. Just like Moon Knight before it, Werewolf By Night is self-contained. You don’t need to have watched any of the MCU movies or shows to understand Werewolf By Night, because Werewolf By Night is not directly attached to any of them. There are almost zero easter eggs or references (as far as I noticed) to the larger MCU, so you don’t have to worry about having to remember what happened in that one movie or series just to comprehend what’s happening in Werewolf By Night.

Without spoiling anything more than what the official synopsis has stated, Werewolf By Night begins on a dark and sombre night as a secret cabal of monster hunters emerge from the shadows and gather at the foreboding Bloodstone Temple following the death of their leader. They are then thrust into a mysterious and deadly competition for a powerful relic; a hunt that will ultimately bring them face to face with a dangerous monster.

Even from the looks of the trailer, anyone can see that Werewolf By Night is inspired by classic and retro horror films of the 1930s and 1940s, including The Wolf Man and Bela Lugosi’s Dracula, amongst others. That is why almost the entirety of Werewolf By Night is black and white. Yes, it’s black and white, you read that right. To evoke the same vibe and tone, as well as act as a homage and tribute to those aforementioned iconic horror films, Werewolf By Night is set in black and white for pretty much the entire movie. Horror fans like myself will likely love this little touch and the fact that Marvel Studios is willing to experiment this far is incredible.

However, most importantly, not only does the black and white aesthetics of Werewolf By Night match classic horror films; it also feels like one in terms of vibe and tone. There isn’t much of the MCU’s trademark humour or comedy in Werewolf By Night. Director Michael Giacchino made the right choice in making Werewolf By Night actually a horror film, albeit one that’s hammier and old-school just like its inspirations.

Ulysses Bloodstone in Marvel Studios’ WEREWOLF BY NIGHT, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

That is thanks to its sound effects, music, visuals and everything else, as well as bold stylistic choices like blood splatter hitting the camera. I was pleasantly surprised that Werewolf By Night is quite bloody and gory by MCU standards, which definitely fits the horror motif of the movie. There’s nothing too gratuitous or shocking, but this is certainly MCU’s first true horror, despite Sam Raimi already putting horror elements in Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness earlier this year. Don’t get me wrong, Werewolf By Night isn’t R-rated or anything, but it’s still the most “horror” the MCU has ever done.

In addition, Werewolf By Night also deserves praise for sticking to practical effects for its sets and the titular protagonist’s design. More recent werewolf depictions tend to skew toward monstrous designs like the Lycans from the Underworld franchise or An American Werewolf In London. However, Werewolf By Night is mostly inspired by the classic The Wolf Man movies, and it shows. This might be a divisive move for viewers who prefer more ”realistic’-looking werewolves, but doing it with practical effects like this is more faithful not only to the comic book version but also to classic The Wolf Man films.

Werewolf By Night is only around 52 minutes long but it could have benefited from a longer runtime. As it is, there’s not much time to flesh out the characters and the narrative ends up being more straightforward than it should be. On the bright side, the short runtime does result in brisk pacing, which means that there aren’t any draggy scenes or plodding parts to worry about. Gael Garcia Bernal (Jack Russell AKA Werewolf By Night) and Laura Donnelly (Elsa Bloodstone) are spectacular additions to the MCU. The supporting characters are fine, but one of the main highlights is the inclusion of Man-Thing, which is a delight every time he appears. They deserve more time to be expanded upon even further.

Thriller

Laura Donnelly as Elsa Bloodstone in Marvel Studios’ WEREWOLF BY NIGHT, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

Werewolf By Night will probably split heads and opinions when it releases, but this should be a welcome move from Marvel Studios. It proves that they are willing to delve into and embrace the less superheroic parts of the Marvel Universe, including the underrated supernatural and magical parts with horror elements. Horror fans will enjoy it the most, that’s for sure, but normal audiences may not be able to stomach a fully black and white film. The MCU needs more niche content like this, and I hope that Marvel Studios continues to change things up once in a while.

FINAL SCORE: 80/100

We received early screeners of Werewolf By Night courtesy of Disney+ Hotstar Malaysia. Werewolf By Night is slated to premiere on 7 October 2022 on Disney+ Hotstar Malaysia.

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Comment(3)

  1. Werewolf By Night Breakdown & Easter Eggs

    October 7, 2022 at 3:09 pm

    […] out my review of Werewolf By Night here, or check out my interviews with Werewolf By Night actress Laura Donnelly, who portrays the role […]

  2. The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special Trailer Reveals November Release Date & Kevin Bacon Cameo

    October 26, 2022 at 1:46 am

    […] the second Marvel Studios Special Presentation after Werewolf By Night. In the meantime, check out my review of Werewolf By Night here and check out my interviews below. As for the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, we’ll […]

  3. Disney+ Hotstar Offers Spooky Content This Halloween, Including New Horror Movie Barbarian

    October 27, 2022 at 5:05 pm

    […] out my review of Werewolf By Night here, or check out my interviews with Werewolf By Night actress Laura Donnelly, who portrays the role […]

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